WHITE OAK, Md. – Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Staff at Arnold Engineering Development Complex Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 have taken this cautionary saying to heart. For about a quarter of a century, a group has been in place in the establishment, ready to intervene in the event of a disaster.
The White Oak Rescue Team, or WORT, was formed in the late 1990s, shortly after Tunnel 9 became an Air Force installation in 1997. The WORT is made up of trained and certified employees of Tunnel 9 with the Department of Defense and AEDC Test Contractor for Operations and Sustainment. Its purpose is to provide immediate lifesaving action in an emergency until county emergency responders arrive.
According to Dawnsherrae Bryant, AEDC White Oak’s Safety, Quality, Industrial Hygiene and Emergency Management Coordinator and WORT Manager, it would take at least 10 minutes and potentially several hours for the agency to nearest emergency responder arrives on the scene in the event of an emergency at the tunnel. 9.
“WORT members give confidence to our staff knowing that we have this capability that if ever we are in danger, they will answer the call,” said William Betz, original WORT member.
The team was originally created to allow staff to work safely and enter the multiple confined spaces around the site. The location of Tunnel 9 in the Washington, DC metro area also played into the shift to an in-house solution. Tunnel 9 is located in White Oak, Maryland, on the Food and Drug Administration’s White Oak Campus. Unlike other AEDC units located on military installations, Tunnel 9 does not have its own fire department or medical clinic. Instead, those in Tunnel 9 relied heavily on the local county’s response. AEDC White Oak management determined that a local rapid response team was required in the event of an accidental nitrogen release or accident.
Among the WORT’s responsibilities is confined space rescue. A confined space is defined as a space large enough for an employee to enter and perform assigned work, but which has restricted means of entry or egress, meaning there is usually only one single entry and exit. Confined spaces are not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Examples of confined spaces in Tunnel 9 most commonly accessed by engineers, customers, and technicians include the test cells, heating pit, and vacuum sphere.
“The combination of slow emergency vehicle response time due to traffic and unforeseen permits required for confined space entry at Tunnel 9 warrants obtaining a WORT,” Bryant said. “Sometimes when there is a need to perform inspections and repairs in the airframe and test sphere, WORT takes those opportunities to practice in those areas.”
The WORT has the ability to extract a victim from a confined space that could become an oxygen deficient area. Team members are also trained to administer first aid, including CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator, until professional medical response personnel arrive.
All team members are notified prior to any confined space entry in Tunnel 9. Each team member is contacted and asked if they are available for pending entry.
“We do the confined space permit once we have a full crew,” Bryant said.
The WORT is currently made up of nine members and includes engineers, technical engineers, IT staff and the Deputy Director of Tunnel 9. Current members are Zenas Crisostomo, George Moraru, Addison Spicer, Mariusz Zarzecki, Nicholas Frederick and Jake Johnson. They are joined by Bryant and WORT co-directs Jason McDonald and Terry Mullin.
Mullin was part of the original WORT, and several other members of that inaugural team are still employed at Tunnel 9, although they no longer participate in the WORT. These employees are William Betz, Chester DiBenedetto, Raymond Schlegel, Arnold Collier and Joe Coblish, AEDC White Oak site manager.
Membership in WORT is voluntary, but those wishing to join must first successfully complete training at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, or MFRI, in College Park, Maryland. Candidates have to go through a maze without any visibility. This helps to assess whether a person is claustrophobic.
“I never witnessed that, but one of the original members, Mr. Betz, thinks a few volunteers in the past couldn’t get past that part of the training,” Bryant said.
Those who complete the initial three-day MFRI training become part of the WORT. This training includes learning how to rescue and secure people on backboards, tying rescue figure-eight knots, using tripods for body recovery, using multi-gas detection meters and basic first aid. Bryant said that in addition to the knowledge gained, the training also creates a sense of camaraderie among those who will join WORT.
“We work together and learn each other’s strengths,” she said. “I also think it helps in our day-to-day work environment.”
To remain on the WORT, members must complete an annual one-day refresher training at MFRI. The team also seeks to organize at least one on-site training session at Tunnel 9 per year. Bryant and AEDC White Oak Safety Specialist Taurean Gray worked with the local fire department to integrate the WORT into previous fire drills and on-site emergency response training sessions . Additionally, McDonald’s has created an online program that invites WORT members to complete monthly inspections of lifesaving equipment and gear.
Bryant admits that finding time and opportunities for WORT members to train has recently been difficult due to the intense testing schedule for Tunnel 9 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the team maintains training at MFRI and team members are always ready to provide quick response in case of call.
“Once the all-call alarm has sounded, our WORT can dress, muster and be at the incident site typically within 2 minutes,” Bryant said.
The last 25 years at White Oak have been filled with many technical achievements at Tunnel 9, with a few challenges mixed in for good measure. Despite those ups and downs and a renewable membership, Bryant said one constant throughout most of that time has been the willingness of WORT members to respond whenever their help is needed.
“Through it all, WORT has never failed to answer the call,” she said.
|Date posted:||22.04.2022 11:10|
|Location:||ARNOLD AFB, TN, USA|
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